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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. (© Brendan McDermid / Reuters/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo. (© Brendan McDermid / Reuters/REUTERS)

Inside the Market

At the open: Indexes flat; Loblaw surges Add to ...

North American stock markets were steady at the open, flicking in and out of the red, as investors took in a bevy of corporate developments, especially on this side of the border.

Loblaw was doing its part to bolster the Canadian market, with its shares surging more than 20 per cent at the open after revealing plans to form one of Canada's largest REITs.

In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 13 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 12,143; the S&P 500 was down 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 1,407; and the Dow Jones industrial average was down 15 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 13,019.

U.S. new jobless claims last week fell 25,000 to 370,000. That was less than the 380,000 economists predicted but wasn't far enough off expectations to rattle markets.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank didn't help sentiment much this morning as it slashed its forecasts for the euro zone economy, showing a contraction next year was very likely before a return to growth in 2014. The ECB cut its estimate of gross domestic product for next year to between a fall of 0.9 per cent and growth of just 0.3 per cent.

Both the ECB, and the Bank of England, held interest rates unchanged this morning.

The German stock market was a bright spot this morning, up nearly 1 per cent, as German factory orders surged almost four times as much as economists forecast in October. Orders jumped 3.9 per cent from September when adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down to the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take hold at the start of next year in the U.S., the so-called "fiscal cliff." The market is looking for any sign of progress in the negotiations, and on Wednesday it got a small hint that there's reason for optimism. A few dozen Republicans joined a bipartisan push to reach an agreement in time by signing a letter calling for openness to "all options." It was enough to spark a minor rally on Wall Street.

Here's a look at the stocks moving on news this morning:

Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said it wants to unlock value for shareholders and maximize the value of its real estate portfolio by establishing a REIT that will go public by the middle of 2013. Shares surged 24 per cent at the open.

Lululemon, which had been down about 5 per cent in the premarket, was seeing very choppy trading. It opened up by about 5 per cent but at last check was down just over 1 per cent. The fashion retailer forecast a deceleration in sales growth but beat expectations for earnings during the past quarter.

Toronto-Dominion Bank announced that it will be paying about $668-million (U.S.) to take over U.S. asset manager Epoch Holding Corp., as the bank unveiled fourth-quarter profits of $1.597-billion (Canadian), a slight increase over the $1.589-billion profit it reported in the same period a year ago. TD shares opened down nearly 1 per cent.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said profit rose 13 per cent in its fourth quarter, or adjusted profit of $2.04 per share, which beat expectations of about $1.98. Shares opened up 0.15 per cent.

National Bank of Canada raised its dividend after reporting a 20-per-cent increase in fourth-quarter profit Thursday, making it the only Big Six Canadian bank to boost its payout so far. Shares opened down 0.2 per cent.

Rona Inc. is moving to streamline its business and sell off non-core assets. Its shares are up 1.5 per cent in early trading.

Bombardier Inc. said Delta Air Lines Inc placed firm orders for 40 NextGen jets, with the option to buy another 30, in a deal valued at up to $3.29 billion. Shares are up 2.4 per cent.

Apple shares are down about 2 per cent after tumbling 6.4 per cent on Wednesday, their steepest fall in more than a year.

Zynga Inc. shares are up about 7 per cent after the Wall Street Journal reported the game maker has filed the preliminary paperwork to secure a Nevada gaming licence.

BHP Billiton is considering a cash bid of $55 (U.S.) per share for U.S. coal producer Walter Energy Inc., according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail. Walter's shares are up nearly 5 per cent.

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